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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall Issue 2013 / VOL 36 / NO.4

30 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S

30 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Woodruff Imberman An economic historian by training, the author, Dr. Woodruff Imberman, is President of Imberman and DeForest, Inc., management consultants. He has published many articles in Distributor’s Link on improving managerial effectiveness, supervisory training, improving employee productivity, and on implementing Gainsharing Plans in the fastener industry. For further information on these subjects and the articles, please contact him at Imberman and DeForest, Inc., IMBandDEF@aol.com. AMERICAN FASTENER MAKERS: WHAT “RESHORING” MEANS TO YOU If executives of efficient American fastener producers overcome organizational inertia in their mid-management ranks by taking five steps needed to improve their competitiveness, they can meet the price and delivery requirements of fastener buyers and take advantage of the “reshoring” trend -- orders once sent to foreign fastener producers, often in Pacific Rim countries -- but now returning due to rising Far Eastern labor costs, fluctuating foreign exchange rates, and logistical difficulties. As the President, CEO, chief marketing officer of a management consulting firm who spends much of his time meeting with clients to discuss how to improve their performance and organizational effectiveness, I know from experience that many fastener executives are their own worst enemies. I have heard innumerable variations on the theme of: “We don’t need any help! We’re tops!” “We’re not alone…it’s a down economy because of Washington” “We are the best in our industry,” “I can’t get my management team excited about a new program” “Business isn’t good now, but the whole industry is down etc. etc.” In short, they act as if they are satisfied with their current profit level, however modest it may be. But as Peter Drucker said, “Inertia in management is responsible for more loss of market share, more loss of competitive position, and more loss of business growth than any other factor.” 1 Inertia has captured them; good enough is good enough. Inertia can best be identified when executives and owners send the message through their organizations by their actions and inaction that good enough is good enough, despite below average results. Everybody knows business is tough these days. 2 Other fastener industry executives worry because they know their industry is highly fragmented, and populated with dozens, nay hundreds of relatively small companies, few with more than several hundred employees. They know this fragmentation allows purchasing agents at the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) considerable ability to play one fastener maker off against another for better pricing. No, some fastener executives worry about improving productivity and become more competitive. The most successful fastener industry executives I have met have a gnawing sense that if they had only made an extra effort here, had asked their managers to execute faster there, had been less accepting of excuses, and had insisted on better performance rather than resting on dubious laurels of current profitability (often marginal), their firms would have now have lower per-unit costs, a better delivery record, and fewer orders lost to foreign competitors, if…. “We had not made this mistake…” “I had not waited to start ….until our margins fell out of bed.” “If only I had prepared for two of our major customers filing for Chapter 11…” please turn to page 208

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